Self Harm

Self harm: spotting the signs, identifying risks and helping someone at risk
Red hands

Self-harm or self-injury is when someone does something to damage their own body. It can go on for years and is more common than most people realise.

For some people self-harm is part of coping with difficult feelings. Some people may only self-harm once, while others may continue to self-harm over a long period of time. Self-harming behaviour can be difficult to stop, but there’s lots of help available.

Instant Expert: The Mental Health Foundation has published The Truth about Self Harm, which includes facts, research, practical help and more.  

What is self-harm?

Self-harm can take a number of forms including:

  • Cutting
  • Taking overdoses of tablets or medicines
  • Hair pulling
  • Scratching skin
  • Burning, causing sores or scarring
  • Inhaling or sniffing harmful substances
  • Some risk taking behaviours can be regarded as self-harm

Self-harm is not suicide

But some self-harming can be very serious and can lead to people being seriously injured or even dying through risk taking behaviour.

Crucial: Your School or College Health Nurse can help with all kinds of health problems, including self harm. Out of termtime you can still get help - call 01865 904225 to contact the school and college nursing service.

If you need to talk to a helpline, all these can help:

  • Papyrus Mon-Fri: 10am-10pm, weekends: 2pm-10pm & bank holidays: 2pm-5pm Hopeline tel: 0800 068 41 41 text 07786 209 697 email pat@papyrus-uk.org   
  • Childline 24/7 0800 1111 
  • Young Minds 9.30 to 4.00pm, Mon- Fri Parents helpline: 0808 802 5544 
  • CALM 7 days a week, 5pm to midnight  0800 58 58 58 

You can find out more on the Suicide and Depression pages

Harmless is an organisation which supports people who self harm and their friends and family with practical, helpful information, whether you are worried about yourself or someone else.

Instant Expert: The University of Oxford Department of Psychiatry worked with Young Minds and others to make this booklet: Coping with Self Harm: A guide for Parents and Carers. It includes strategies and suggestions from parents who have been in the situation, alongside evidence-based strategies, and links to more help.

Where to get help

If you're worried about yours or someone else’s self-harm, help is available. A good first step is to talk to your your School Health Nurse or GP. You could also talk to a teacher, social worker or any other workers or volunteers at your youth group or club. Your GP or School Health Nurse will be able to refer you to specialist help.

If you are 16 or 17 you can self-refer to see a specialist through Community CAMHS.

A specialist can help you:

  • Find safer ways to relieve stress
  • Learn how to relax without self-harming
  • Harm yourself less, or less dangerously.

Instant expert: Read about self-harm coping techniques, ways to help yourself not self-harm and more from Childline.

In an emergency

Worried about how you'd cope if something went wrong? Make sure you know what to do in an emergency.